NEW ZEALAND: Retired Archbishop Whakahuihui Vercoe dies at 79

September 13, 2007

The former Anglican Archbishop of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Whakahuihui Vercoe, died September 12 surrounded by family at his home in Rotorua. He was 79.

Vercoe, who served as leader of the Maori arm of the Anglican Church from 1981 until 2004 and as its Primate from 2004-06, had was diagnosed with cancer of the brain in 2005.

Vercoe was ordained in 1952 and served as a military chaplain in Malaya between 1961 and 1963 and South Vietnam 1968-69.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Vercoe was a staunch supporter of the Treaty of Waitangi, which gives Maori the same rights as British citizens in New Zealand.

Vercoe was outspoken over the years on the Treaty, homosexuality, immigration and the place of women in the church, the newspaper reported. He made a speech at Waitangi in 1990 in front of the Queen saying Maori had been marginalized and the Treaty had not been honored.

He is survived by his wife, Doris, and their three sons, Graeme, Andrew and Michael.

The funeral was held September 17 in Torere.

Native Americans and Native Hawaiians of the United States are also mourning Vercoe's death, said Janine Tinsley-Roe, the Episcopal Church's national missioner for Native American Ministries. "His mission stretched across the waters as he touched many Indigenous members of our church," she said. "His welcoming of others to New Zealand to teach of advocacy for Native rights and social justice was unique. He inspired many to confront their individual marginalization of their communities for real change, and he will be missed."